Insight: So, How Gay (and Lesbian) is Canada?

With Statistics Canada’s release of family data from the 2011 Census of Canada, key changes in the nature and structure of families across the country are being revealed. The Martin Prosperity Institute wanted to take a look at the changes in the reporting of same-sex relationships across the country. So far, and likely as far as it will go, Statistics Canada has released data on same-sex couples for Census Metropolitan Areas (CMA) only. It has already been reported that the counting of same-sex couples for 2011 was originally impacted by roommate arrangements in high employment growth areas, especially in Alberta’s oil patch. And, the way in which information on same-sex couples was compiled on the Census form was different this year.

Although the reporting method has changed, the focus of this Insight will be on changes in the share of same-sex couples among all couples in each region. Exhibit 1 (below) shows the change in the share of same-sex couples for all metro areas across Canada. The percentage of same-sex couples in all metro areas increased from 0.75% to nearly 1.0% of couples. While not as large a number as is often expected, the total share within Canada is in line with results found within the U.S. and other countries around the world. Not only has the Canadian total increased, but the share of same-sex couples has increased in all 33 metropolitan areas across Canada between 2006 and 2011. The smallest increase was found to be in Oshawa, Ontario which rose from 0.41% to 0.48%. The largest same-sex share increase was in Edmonton, where the percentage nearly doubled, increasing from 0.44% to 0.87%. Within the top ten CMAs when ranked by share increase, only Victoria, Quebec City, and Halifax have a higher than average number of same-sex couples.

Exhibit 1: Increase in same-sex couples as share of all couples, 2006-2011

Exhibit 1: Increase in same-sex couples as share of all couples, 2006 to 2011

Although places that traditionally have large gay and lesbian populations saw increases in their share of same-sex couples, many of the most significant increases were found in places that do not currently have large visible same-sex populations. The Ontario CMAs of Brantford, Oshawa, Barrie and Windsor all experienced large gains, as did Abbotsford and Kelowna, British Columbia. The change was such that Toronto, which saw its share increase by 0.16% from 0.82% in 2006 to 0.98% in 2011, went from having over 10% more same-sex couples than the average Canadian metro (2006), to essentially having the same percentage as the CMA average in 2011. These changes do not necessarily mean that same-sex couples are moving to these cities, or that more same-sex couples within these cities are getting married. A significant portion of the increase is likely due to same-sex couples living in some of the smaller or more remote communities feeling more comfortable today, identifying themselves as a same-sex couple. So, it’s not that Edmonton and Sherbrooke and Saint John have suddenly become hot beds of same-sex marriage, but rather that same-sex couples have been living in Edmonton and Sherbrooke and Saint John all along, but have not reported that as part of the Census. Exhibit 2 shows the top 15 Canadian CMAs sorted by the increase in the share of same-sex couples.

Exhibit 2: Top 15 CMAs by increase in same-sex couples as share of all couples, 2006-2011

Exhibit 2: Top 15 CMAs by increase in same-sex couples as share of all couples, 2006 to 2011

Finally, although the share of same-sex couples has increased across Canada, the cities that are home to the greatest share of same-sex couples have not changed very much over the past five years. While Montreal shifted from being the city at the top of the list to third place, and replaced by Victoria in first, fourteen of the top fifteen Canadian metros when ranked by share of couples that are same-sex in 2006 remained in the top 15 in 2011. Only Trois Rivieres, which ranked 12th in 2006, is not on the 2011 list. Trois Rivieres slipped to 16th in 2011 and was replaced in the top 15 by Edmonton. So although more couples across Canada are reporting that they are in a same-sex relationship, their locations have remained fairly stable and it seems as if same-sex couples across Canada are becoming more inclined and comfortable in designating themselves as such within the Census.

Exhibit 3: Share of Same Sex Couples, 2011

Exhibit 3: Share of Same Sex Couples, 2011

Download this Insight (PDF)

The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto‘s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors — location, place and city-regions — in global economic prosperity. We take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.